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Positive Peers: Function and Content Development of a Mobile App for Engaging and Retaining Young Adults in HIV Care


“Positive Peers” was developed in collaboration with a community advisory board (CAB) comprised of in-care young adults living with HIV and a multidisciplinary project team. Mobile app functions and features were developed over iterative collaborative sessions tailored to engage the CAB members. In turn, the CAB built rapport with the project team and revealed unique information that was used to build a mobile application for download via commercial app stores. Key functions identified by users included anonymity control, medication/lab tracking and reminders, a community forum section for public messaging, a private chat feature, and a resource page. The app also produced a panel of usage data that includes the precise date, tracked time, and activity counts of taps within each app function.

This paper also describes the protocol for a pilot study to assess acceptability and use of the Positive Peers app. The pilot study included measures for demographics, application activity (described above), and a prospective survey analyzed at baseline and monthly intervals. Recruitment was centered at a single HIV clinic at a public county hospital from October 2016 to May 2019. During this time the study enrolled 128 users who reflect priority disparity population subgroups. Key lessons learned from the study include the central coordinating role of an app administrator, changing privacy concerns, data tracking reliability, and identified user barriers.


Step, M.M., Smith, J.M., Kratz, J., Briggs, J., Avery, A. (2020). Positive Peers: Function and content development of a mobile app for engaging and retaining young adults in HIV care. JMIR Formative Research, 4(1): e13495. doi: 10.2196/13495